By Damakant Jayshi

After a one-year hiatus, the Hmong Wausau Festival will once again showcase the culture and heritage of the second largest community in the city. 

The two-day festival, the largest of its kind in the area, will be held July 31 to Aug. 1 at Peoples Sports Complex, 602 E. Kent St. in Wausau. About 9,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival from throughout the state and beyond.

The event is open to in-person visitors after last year’s festival was put off due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Representatives from the Hmong American Center, the group planning the festival, said the event will feature dancing and singing competitions, a Hmong Royalty Pageant and sports matches as well as a night party on Saturday, the inaugural day. There will be food and fireworks too.

Yee Leng Xiong, the executive director of Hmong American Center, said nearly everything is set for the festival – with except some of the artists who will perform. Those will be finalized about two weeks before the event, Xiong said.

Past festivals brought millions of tourism spending to the city, according to Xiong’s April letter requesting room tax funding from the city. In 2017, the festival brought in $1.03 million, according to city figures. That number increased to $1.7 million in 2018 and soared to $2.9 million in 2019.

“These are dollars that are coming into our community to support our gas stations, our 3 local restaurants, and local businesses,” Xiong said, in the letter. 

Organizers applied for $10,000 in funding through room tax to defray the roughly $100,000 cost of putting on the festival. Xiong said no funding has been confirmed yet. Room tax grants encourage and promote programs, services and facilities that “directly benefit the residents in the City of Wausau.”

Hmong community members have expressed their support and enthusiasm on the Facebook page maintained by Hmong American Center. However, some members have expressed concern about safety, given the acts of racially-motivated violence in the country. Asian Americans in particular have faced a series of assaults and harassment in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Admission is $7 on Saturday and $5 on Sunday. For event and contact information, visit the event Facebook page here.

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.